Paul Mabray is one of the most important and influential voices we have in the wine and drinks industry. Primarily because he stands with one foot firmly outside the sector as a technology and consumer trends expert looking to offer services and solutions as an observer and analyst of what is going in the wine industry rather than be involved in producing or directly selling any wine himself. Here is his take on what the big challenges and opportunities facing all those in the wine and drinks sectors are in 2019 and why being able to sell directly to consumers at home is going to be the real game changer.
A new winemaking style, new cuvees, new brand marketing, a new look, new HQ, new faces – there is hardly anything about Nicolas Feuillatte that has stayed the same in recent months. Number one Champagne brand in France, number three in the world and unbelievably a company that is still only 40 years old, Peter Dean was granted a rare audience with the key movers and shakers who are set to make a significant impact on the UK on-trade
After the big structure of the reds in 2015 and 2016, Burgundy 2017 will be noted for the round, silky tannins of the Pinots, the fact that producers didn’t over-crop and that, after a couple of warmer vintages, 2017 was a return to a more classic style of red Burgundy. The whites – from Chablis to the Côte d’Or – have a nice balance between ripeness and tension. Here’s Bibendum’s wine buyer Robert Mathias’ take on the 2017 vintage.
Finally Burgundy gets a bit of good fortune with a new vintage that is good in both quality and quantity. Corney & Barrow’s Burgundy buyer Guy Seddon talks through how the 2017 vintage developed over the year for all the producers whose wines they are offering in this new release. He also highlights two trends – how a lightness of touch is the watchword for tannin extraction in red wines, and also the greater proliferation of whole bunch, or whole-cluster vinification for reds in 2017.
Although Chablis was hit by frost again and Beaujolais suffered bad weather in a number of appelations, Burgundy in 2017 got away pretty much scot-free weather-wise. To make matters even better volumes ranged from normal to generous and the quality is looking promising particularly with the whites. But it could all have been so different. For some producers another weather-ravaged harvest could have meant curtains. Thankfully 2017 has been followed by a bumper harvest in 2018 so finally we can all start getting our hands on Burgundy again – and there is no sign of any price increases… just yet!
When it comes to knowledge about Burgundy, especially in a commercial context, there are few if any higher authorities than Jasper Morris MW. His annual report which you can find on Inside Burgundy.com is the bible for many wine buyers. In an exclusive extract Morris gives wine buyers the lowdown on Burgundy 2017, a vintage that has seen volumes come back to near normal at no expense of quality. With both red and whites, Morris lays out his buying strategy, looks at the sweet spots with both and when he feels the wines will be drinking best.
Now if you ever succumb to the lure of stopping by the pie stand on the way home from work, you’ll probably feel a little guilty as you take your first bite. Naughty but nice. But, for Bruce Jack, his love of pies growing up also taught him arguably the most important business lesson he was ever going to learn. For, as in the wine industry, there are so many pies to choose from, but which one is going to catch your eye, and why? Understand that, he says, and you have got a good chance of understanding how to run your business. Here’s Bruce’s pie business sermon…
We can all appreciate a great wine list, or identify when the sommelier just isn’t firing on all cylinders. In the case of The Vineyard Hotel in Berkshire, their wine-pairing evenings take the wine list into unchartered territory, argues Mike Turner, who says that the way the Old World wines are matched in pairs against Californian wines is a lesson for all budding sommeliers to do something extra with a wine experience – and give customers something that will live long in the memory.
Many producers of sparkling wine in the towns of Asolo, Congliano, and Valdobbiadene, that make up the heartland of old Prosecco, are thinking of dropping the name ‘Prosecco’ from their wine labels – such is the negative impact being felt by the fizz coming from the cheap and nasty industrial flatlands. Mike Turner takes to the road, panini in hand, to find out more about Asolo and what gives their Prosecco a unique selling point on a wine list.
Coldplay, Strictly, Crispy Pancakes… we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’. For drinks expert and restaurateur Mike Turner, his is Asti Spumante – a drink that, when he first discovered it, he drank with almost everything, much to the dismay of Italian sommeliers. But, despite the derision this precursor to Prosecco often gets, Mike argues it’s a serious drink with masses of skill in the making of. He visits the winemakers of Piedmont and the growers who supply the fruit and has his belief re-confirmed… Asti Spumante is a fizz that seriously needs your re-appraisal.
On the one hand English whisky is one of the most exciting, fast moving spirits categories you can find on the back bar. On the other it is still very much in its infancy, with vastly different products and no real identity about what the category is all about. Stephen Russell, co-founder of the Copper Rivet Distillery in Kent, believes English whisky needs its own charter, its own standards and benchmarks to help create a standalone industry in its own right. Here he explains why.
It is difficult when making drinks-based TV shows to get the right balance between ‘broad appeal’ and entertaining ‘those in the know’. Critics of The Wine Show complained about it not going deep enough, while those behind the show defended its entertainment-first approach. Amazon Prime has just started airing The Three Drinkers Do Scotch – a three-part series that aims to cover the entire world of Scottish whisky in just three 30 minute episodes. Mike Turner, who is a close friend of the three presenters, reckons they’ve got it just about right.
With five restaurants across Hertfordshire bearing his name, and with plans to open a sixth in the near future, Andrei Lussman is a busy man. But one thing he doesn’t have to worry about is his wine supplier, thanks to a long-standing relationship with Corney & Barrow which stretches back to the 1990’s when he worked in the company’s wine bars at the time. Here he talks to Helen Arnold about how he works with C&B to select the right wines for his restaurants and the challenge of persuading customers to get out of their wine comfort zones.
What a difference a year makes! Last year buyers were left wondering where their supplies were going to come from, as a ‘perfect storm’ of poor global harvests engulfed them. This year the market is ‘awash with wine’, as David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, found at the tenth annual World Bulk Wine Exhibition in Amsterdam
If you know her from the BBC’s Apprentice then you will know Jackie Fast is going places. In fact having sold her sports sponsorship for an undisclosed sum before even stepping into Lord Sugar’s boardroom she has arguably already achieved more businesses success than most of us will achieve in our careers. She also certainly lives up to her name and is already trying to pin down prestigious listings in major on-trade accounts and luxury retailers for her premium Canadian ice wine brand, REBEL Pi, within a few weeks of its launch. Richard Siddle caught up with her to find out how she hopes to now crack the notoriously difficult UK premium wine market.
South Africa might, in comparison to other wine producing countries, be a relatively newcomer on the international wine market, but it has vines that date back decades. But they are in ever decreasing numbers as they are have been systematically ripped out over the years to be replaced by new vines as producers and the major co-ops look to keep ahead of world demand by planting more global varieties than local ones. But now thanks to the Old Vine Project and the pioneering work of respected viticulturist, Rosa Kruger, more and more older vines are being protected, saved and brought back to life. Vines that potentially give winemakers the opportunity to produce styles of wine that are the true identity of South Africa and have learnt how to live through at least 35 years – the age at which they are deemed to be ‘old’ – and become part of the Old Vine Project. Richard Siddle explores what the project means in reality, and how it is still a slow, but very important process in convincing growers and the major co-operatives to identify where the old vines are and help bring them back to life.
‘Plaimont Producteurs and the Sale of the Golden Barrels’ sounds like a story JK Rowling could have dreamt up, beret pulled down over her eyes after necking a bottle of solid Madiran in the rolling hills of Gascogne. It is, however, an annual auction held on November 5th where the finest barrels of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh (or Barriques d’Or) are sold to the on-trade – a chance to assess the latest harvest, get first dibs on the best of the best, and also to come together and celebrate as one winemaking community – just before the grapes are picked for the next vintage. Peter Dean travelled there to take part in the festivities and on no account to come home with 228 litres of sticky.
We saw yesterday how the People’s Choice Wine Awards has already carved its own highly relevant and much needed mark on wine competitions with an event that allows everyday wine drinkers to have a say in the wines they think should be picking up trophies and medals. Here wine communicator, Sorcha Holloway, and already very much a voice for average wine consumers with her weekly #ukwinehour Twitter show, explains what it was like to be involved from a so-called ‘expert’s’ point of view.
As we all get used to the clocks going back an hour over the weekend, it feels an opportune time to analyse what sort of business models the average drinks industry business is following. Are you the kind of company that always looks backwards at what you have done, and the practicalities of doing business, in order to determine what you do in the future? Or are you willing to take risks and see the past as the building blocks of business experience from which you can learn to adapt, change and move on for the future? Or for Reka Haros it comes down to those companies that embrace change, and those that will do anything to avoid it. Here’s her take on why businesses need to be innovating, and adopting new ideas in order to grow, or risk the perils of being caught out by standing still.
When Mike Turner opened his first restaurant, little did he think about the spirits shelf – the “every other alcoholic drink in the world in a quarter of a piece of A4” shelf. Mike had just about got used to being a professional wine buyer (and he knows a lot about wine) so how was he going to catch up with his spirits knowledge against the clock? He seeks help from Colin Hampden White who steers him firmly towards whisky as the first category to get on top of. But that is not such a straight path.